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Preliminary count shows CPS enrollment plunged since last year

Students enter Edwards Elementary School, 4815 S. Karlov Ave., on the first day of the Chicago Public Schools 2016-17 school year, Sept. 7, 2016. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Enrollment at Chicago Public Schools has dropped by 3.5 percent since last September, according to a preliminary count that shows a loss of about 13,000 students.

The loss is more than twice as large as district officials projected in July.

Some 8,181 of those students left CPS-run schools, which now count 294,967 students in grades K-12, according to numbers tallied from the 10th day of school.

Privately-managed charter schools have so far lost 6,600 students compared to last September, totaling 54,889 students — a loss of about 10 percent. Three charter schools left the district but remained open, though, accounting for about 1,000 of charters’ decline.

Some 195 schools have exceeded expected projections district officials released in July, but 306 fell short.

Pre-kindergarten numbers and enrollment in alternative schools haven’t yet been tallied. CPS will take its official count of students on the 20th day of school, which this year falls on Oct. 3. That count determines a school’s final budget, and whether it will add teachers or lay them off. And last year, CPS picked up about 2,200 kids between the two counts.

CPS typically budgets money to schools based on enrollment. The district has already provided $5.7 million for schools that have cut so many teachers they can no longer offer a full slate of courses, or whose losses were much steeper than expected.

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Chicago’s public school enrollment has been dwindling for years, but this year’s loss took a sharp turn. CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner chalked the losses up to declining birthrates in Illinois and to a slower influx of undocumented immigrants, in addition to African-American families leaving Chicago. She could not say how many total students left Chicago schools for others, following a years-long stretch of instability that has included a teachers strike, mass school closings and deep cuts to school budgets.

Last year in particular was plagued by financial insecurity, including unusual mid-year budget cuts and layoffs, a funding showdown with the state, unpaid furlough days and a one-day teacher walkout. CPS also lost more than 60 principals, a record since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office.

CEO Forrest Claypool said in a press release that “bringing more stability to CPS is a key priority” this year.

System-wide CPS for School Year 2016-17: 378,481 2015-16 392,285

CPS-run K-12 schools: 294,967 2015-16 303,148

K-12 charter schools: 54,889 2015-16 61,496

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